John Chodkiewicz 04.23.21
You have probably heard the old saying “Beware the man with one gun,” but what about “Beware the man with one holster?” Being proficient with each holster system you plan to use for concealed carry is important. After all, nobody wants to be fumbling with an unfamiliar system when seconds count, but does that mean you should limit yourself to just one holster? I wouldn’t consider my shop toolbox complete with only one screwdriver, and I wouldn’t feel like my CCW toolbox was complete with just one holster either. Multiple holster systems do take extra time to stay proficient with, yet the advantages inherent to a shoulder holster might help it plug a gap in your ccw toolbox. Before I lay out my top picks, let me remind you these picks are based solely on concealed carry. There are a lot of great hunting and hiking holsters out there to be sure, but to keep this article on point I am only talking about what I feel are the best shoulder holsters for concealed carry.
Table of Contents
1. Galco Miami Classic II – Editor’s Pick
Simply put, this is the best CCW shoulder rig on the market today. It’s not cheap, so buy once cry once. This is the quintessential shoulder holster. A vertical magazine carrier is also available as the original Classic if you prefer. Once this holster is broken in, you can expect years of daily comfort and reliability. It has excellent Galco build quality and off side double magazine carrier for balance and capacity. The swivel point harness adds tot he comfort level and tie downs are available for a tailored fit.
This is one of those sweet rigs that once broken in, will last for years thanks to excellent contoured leather retention. The standard rig comes with a horizontal magazine carrier.
Price, this holster quality comes at a $260 price tag
Full grain leather takes longer break in
Not suitable for most electronic sighting systems
A bit thicker than kydex
Pros/A comfortable, long-lasting shoulder rig that will last for a long, long time.
Cons/Pricey and takes a little while to break in.
Bottom Line/In my opinion, the best out there.
2. Galco Classic Lite 2.0 – Budget Pick
In my opinion, this holster has it all. The right balance of comfort, capacity, and Galco quality, all at an affordable price. It has a double mag pouch for capacity and balance and the thinner leather conceals easier and takes less break in time, which is a big plus. There are swivel points for movement and comfort and tie downs are available to keep things settled. It is also available for a great price for a Galco all leather holster. I like this one a lot and think you will too. A jack of all trades but master of none, this holster has an excellent combination of comfort, quality, and price, but lacks positive retention and full grain leather durability.
The trade off is it has thinner leather than the Classic and so it does not offer the same level of durability. It also only comes with vertical mag carrier, and I feel there is less positive gun retention when compared to Kydex or contoured, full-grain leather. It also may not fit every body type.
Pros/Affordable, all-leather holster that conceal easily
Cons/Thinner leather and fewer options for carry
Bottom Line/A great, affordable option from Galco
3. Aker Leather 101 Comfort-Flex – Mid-Level Pick
The Aker is a good middle of the road option for contoured full grain leather. It has an upward pistol angle that may provide extra comfort and concealment for certain pistol and body types. There is a double mag pouch for capacity and balance, something I prefer in a shoulder rig. There are swivel points for movement and comfort and a big plus are the adjustable mag pouch tension screws, so you can dial the mag pouches to your taste.
One drawback is that there is a thicker under arm than Kydex or the Galco Classic Lite 2.0 and I think the strap leather may wear faster than other brands. Still, this is a great mid-level shoulder holster for concealed carry.
Pros/Great price and full-grain leather
Cons/May wear out faster than others.
Bottom Line/USA made full grain contoured leather for a hundred dollars less than Galco. What’s not to love?
4. Galco Parabellum – Hybrid Pick
The Galco Parabellum offers the benefits of Kydex in a hybrid under arm rig. It is thinner and lighter than leather and may fit and conceal better for certain body types. Kydex offers excellent durability and the quality retention you’d expect. A big plus here is that it may fit electronic sights better, which are becoming more and more popular. Kydex may have a harsher feel under arm.
It is also nearly the cost of the Classic even with Kydex. Overall, though, this may be the best option for red dot/reflex sights in a love it or hate it package. The Galco Parabellum offers a thinner lighter holster at a cheaper price than the Classic, but the underarm feel of kydex might not be for everyone, comfort can be clothing dependent.
Pros/The feel of leather, and the security of Kydex – Good option for electronic sights – Lightweight
Cons/Pricey and may feel weird to some
Bottom Line/One of the best hybrid options, mixing Kydex and leather
5. Bianchi X15
For those that like vertical carry option at a competitive price the X15 is a great option. It is made from durable full-grain leather and is one of my favorite options for carrying wheel guns. It is a different harness style than most, and it could be the fit you’ve been looking for. The sized universal holster fits multiple guns and it comes with a belt loop tie down as standard. Universal fit not as snug a retention method as contoured leather or Kydex, so know that before you buy. Full grain leather means full break in required, too. The unique harness style may not be for everyone and the fabric strap can stretch over time. There’s no mag pouch, either. The bottom line is quality holster with a comfortable fit. If you tried but didn’t like a different shoulder holster style before, try the X15, it’s a unique fit that can offer all day comfort.
Pros/Comfortable and a good option for those that don’t like other holsters
Cons/The universal fit means its not as snug for some handguns
Bottom Line/A great option for a comfortable, vertical carry
6. Galco VHS 4.0
The Galco VHS 4.0 has all the goods of the Miami Classic, for those who prefer a vertical orientation. That means excellent Galco build quality with outstanding contoured leather retention. There is a double magazine carrier for balance and capacity, a swivel point harness and a built-in belt tie down. It’s pricey, but it is a premium product so you would expect a premium price point. Like the Miami, full break in required to reach maximum comfort. It also fits a smaller selection of guns. It’s a Galco, but vertical. Quality and durability of this holster is second to none for vertical carry.
Pros/Extreme quality and durability
Cons/It’s a bit pricey and needs break in time
Bottom Line/The highest quality vertical-carry holster
Shoulder holster comfort is vital
Comfort can be a very subjective topic, but a shoulder holster can be a great way to carry a full size handgun without adding to lower back strain. This may not be a problem for everyone, but if hip carry exacerbates existing back issues, transferring the weight to the shoulders can be a big help.
Many styles of shoulder holster also offer a spare magazine carrier (or speed loaders for the wheel gun types). This opposite side of the body feature partially balances out the weight of the gun, increasing both capacity and comfort, a not insignificant accomplishment.
Full grain leather is commonly found on shoulder holsters making for a great all day experience. This leather may take some time to get properly broke in, but have patience, once it is, the leather can really take on that “like a glove” fit.
The importance of concealability
Concealability with a shoulder holster is naturally excellent. Like most things in life however, that concealability comes as a bit of a compromise. A shoulder holster allows for excellent range of motion at the arms and waist without risking exposing a carry gun, but it must be pared with an outer garmet that may not be appropriate for all social situations or weather conditions. This factor is one of the shoulder holster’s greatest strengths and weaknesses.
Reaching your firearm
This is where shoulder holsters really separate themselves from the more popular hip carry options. A shoulder holster draw might be a fraction slower in ideal conditions, but once seated in a car or behind a desk the hip carry draw is at a serious disadvantage. This disadvantage for hip carry is only exacerbated in the winter time when the clothing layers pile deep.
It’s not just a holster
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all good shoulder holsters out there, but included should be something for everyone thinking of trying a shoulder holster for concealed carry. One point I want to mention before I finish is that many of the above listed holsters are not just a holster, but part of a whole carry system. Harnesses can be replaced or customized by width or style. Holsters and magazine carriers can be swapped out to fit different guns. Tie down materials can be swapped from elastic to leather and everything in between. Even add ons like flashlight and knife cases can be added to the harness. So while upfront cost may seem a bit steep, the value of the holster is greater than the sum of its parts, and some of those holsters may well last as long as the guns they are intended to carry.
Is a shoulder holster good for concealed carry?
The most important thing for concealed carry is comfort. Shoulder holster are an extremely effective way to carry and may be the best option for you.
What is the best shoulder holster?
The best shoulder holster setup is the one that fits your needs best. Galco makes some amazing holsters and would be the place to start.
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